9th November 2015

Maximising Broadband Speeds


Chambers Ireland had found that in a recent survey by ComReg many internet users do not experience the speed of broadband advertised by service providers.   This provides much frustration for users, particularly small businesses.

The information note below sets out a number of actions that users can take to improve the speed of their online activities and explains which internal and external factors slow the performance of broadband.

Background Information:

A recent survey completed by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) found that many broadband users do not experience the advertised speeds by internet providers.

A number of factors affect broadband performances including some that users themselves can take action on in order to improve the speed of their online activities. This note provides an overview of some external and internal factors that may negatively affect your user experience and ideas for how you can maximise the broadband speed in your home or office.

External factors affecting broadband speeds:

  • Distance: The distance between your local telephone exchange and your office greatly affects the speed of phone line based broadband speeds. The closer you are to an exchange, the higher the bandwidth speed can typically be supported by your line. Users may nevertheless still experience speed reductions when many local users connect to the network at the same time. Customers supplied with fibre broadband are less affected by distances.


  • Network coverage: Mobile broadband depends largely on the availability of network coverage, and whether the connection is 3G or 4G. Coverage is further dependent on whether the user is inside or outdoors, and whether he or she is standing still or moving.
  • Traffic management: Broadband service providers adopt traffic management plans to prevent congestion and ensure the reliability of services. This way, they can control the internet speed of heavy users for the benefit of other users. Customers experiencing slow broadband speeds should contact their service providers for details on their traffic management practices.
  • Contention and congestion: Broadband speeds are affected by the number of people using the network at any given time since the bandwidth then will be shared between more people. The contention rate on your broadband plan details the details the maximum number of users that can use a service at one time.


Internal factors affecting broadband speeds:

  • Multiple devices: The amount of devices (PCs, laptops, phones, tablets) connected to broadband services significantly affects the speed experienced by users. To get an idea of how speedy your device would run on its own, turn off the connection to all other devices and run a speed test.
  • Wi-Fi: The distance between your device and Wi-Fi router also impacts on broadband performances. Generally, wired routers deliver faster, more reliable speeds. To improve the strength of wireless connections, position your router high up in a place where there is a clear space between the router and your device. By installing a signal booster you can also strengthen the Wi-Fi signal in rooms with weak connection.
  • Wiring: Old wiring can negatively impact broadband performances. Cheap, old or tangled up wires form a resistive path for electrical signals. Outdated or cheap routers and modems also slow the performance of your Wi-Fi.


  • Old devices: Computers and tablets which are more than a few years old may not be compatible with the maximum broadband speed you can receive. It is worth checking that your computer meets the maximum system requirements needed for your broadband service. If it does not, it may be time to remove unused software or invest in a new computer.
  • Tidy up: A lot of activity happens in the background when you surf the internet which takes up memory, clogs the processing, and ultimately slows the performance of your computer. Regular tidy ups and updates of your browser and antivirus software will improve the performance of your internet applications.
  • Contact your service provider: Your service provider can provide you with information on how to optimise your broadband speed and check for any problems on your line. Before buying a broadband service, it is always a good idea to ask a service provider which speed you can expect to receive given your location and personal circumstances.

Further information:

Further information on optimal broadband speeds and ComReg’s survey can be found here and here. To run a free speed test click here.


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